What the ABC News political team is tracking in the days ahead.
By RICK KLEIN
September 13, 2015, 10:25 AM
• 5 min read
-- Sorry may be the hardest word, if you’re Hillary Clinton. But that may be better than nobody knowing your name, which was the case for Martin O’Malley in Independent Journal's video of him strumming a guitar on Wall Street this week. So let’s raise our hands and take our overrated doctors and our boring selves. Let’s put them all together on a slightly bigger stage, for Round Two of the Republican debate season. It will be in a house that Reagan built, but we’ll see how long his famous commandment holds.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the stories the ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
DOCTOR IS IN
Dr. Ben Carson enters the second Republican debate as one of the frontrunners so established that he’s even fighting with Donald Trump now. Trump’s assessment of Carson's record as a neurosurgeon notwithstanding, this will be Carson’s first time at the center of a GOP stage, making this testing time for an untested candidate. Carson’s comments about his own faith, in comparison to Trump’s, offer a window into his appeal. His support, built less on campaign stops than social networks and virtual organizing, has been vexing to some in the GOP establishment, though less so than Trump’s rise. His challenge will be to show command of the issues and control when he comes in for inevitable attacks.
He looks like a candidate, but he just doesn’t sound like one. The political world is getting glimpses of all facets of Vice President Joe Biden -- the anguish as well as the energy that make him a unique political personality. As always, Biden is putting it all out there, whether that means sprinting down a parade route and hugging firefighters, or describing in riveting, raw terms the emotional journey he’s been on since the death of his son. The one thing he’s still not putting out there is whether he’s running for president, though aides and advisers insist it’s because he truly hasn’t made up his mind. His decision could still be weeks away, though Biden will be in southern California midweek -- conveniently or not, rather close to where Republicans are gathering for their second debate.
NEW, NEW HILLARY
Welcome to another new phase of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, complete with more planned spontaneity and reminders that, yes, she’s a woman. Clinton is trying to put a damaging storyline about her personal email use behind her, after finally and belatedly apologizing and saying it was a mistake to have her own private email server while serving as secretary of state. Now, she’ll be leaning on her family -- both Chelsea and Bill Clinton are stepping up their campaign pace -- to help make the next campaign turn. But it comes as she hears louder footsteps from Bernie Sanders, whose campaign crowds are turning into polling numbers, nationally and in early-voting states. A multi-candidate gathering next weekend in New Hampshire will take the temperature of a restless Democratic Party and its related Biden buzz. Clinton, though, still is the frontrunner, and has a far bigger platform to get out any new messaging.
TRUMP VS. WORLD
The most appropriate way to kick off the second Republican debate, on CNN on Wednesday at the Reagan library, might be to have the candidates raise their hands if they’re not in a fight with Donald Trump. Trump might again be alone on that one, after picking a fight with Carly Fiorina and engaging in one with Ben Carson. Few top-tier candidates are likely to go as far as Bobby Jindal, who essentially wrote a speech using a Trump insult generator and would be expected to revive that language at the undercard debate. Trump, though, will surely be the center of attention again, with a big Dallas rally on Monday and another one to be held the night before the debate in California. His pledge to support the Republican nominee did not include a pledge to be nice to his fellow candidates, quite obviously.
Look who’s crashing the boys’ party. Carly Fiorina will join the 10 men on stage at the CNN debate, giving a flash of color to the field after a late change to the rules won her a podium. Fiorina was the consensus winner of last month’s “happy hour” debate, so a promotion to the big leagues seems in order. (The kids table will be down to four this time, without Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, who didn’t earn a spot this time, and Rick Perry, who announced Friday he was dropping out of the race). And with Fiorina getting attacked by Trump over her appearance (maybe), issues of gender and double standards could easily come up. Fiorina has cast herself as better-suited to take on Hillary Clinton than her male opponents, and this debate will give her her widest exposure to date to the voting public.